Stretford ‘one of worst places to shop in UK’

Stretford in Greater Manchester has been identified as one of the worst places to shop in the UK.

It was named in the bottom 50 shopping centres by retail specialist Harper Dennis Hobbs alongside Byker in Newcastle-upone-Tyne and Harrow Road in north London.

HDH, however, says strong action by local authorities, landlords and retailers can stimulate improvements, even in the hardest hit areas, as recently shown in Dudley in the West Midlands.

HDH’s Vitality Index for 2017 ranks more than1,000 UK centres in terms of how vibrant their retail offer is.

Many retail centres suffered from a wave of administrations post 2008 and in the years that followed, the volume of retail business failures remained consistently high.

Some high streets suffered considerably as a result and many never recovered.

The main difference between this ranking and HDH’s 2014 ranking (apart from expanding the number of centres assessed from 500 to 1,000), is the ability to track the change in the quality of retail stock in each centre – both in terms of an increase in the number of vacant stores, as well as an increase in the volume of ‘undesirable’ retail.

The bottom 50 centres in the Vitality Ranking represent the poorest town centres, shopping centres and high streets in Britain.

Of these, many are new additions to the ranking, which are mostly small neighbourhoods and high streets that are located in deprived areas, and are struggling to compete with stronger centres nearby.

These retail centres are the least vital in Britain and are dominated by vacant units, “undesirable” retail – such as bookmakers and money lenders, and value-led shops.

Some of these centres are very poorly adapted to their catchment areas, such as Harrow Road in Maida Hill, where the average price of a terraced house is about £1.5m, yet nearly 80% of retailers are ‘undesirable’ and there are no upmarket shops.

Most centres on this list are located in deprived urban areas in a major city, but a number of these are situated in small towns in more remote areas.

The more remote locations, such as Annan and Tonypandy, are most heavily impacted by the poor state of their high streets, as the distance to quality shopping destinations is much further.

The least vital centre in the ranking is Shields Road in Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where 19.6% of retail floorspace is unused – up 11% in the past five years.

Jonathan De Mello, head of retail consultancy at Harper Dennis Hobbs, said, “With a hung Parliament and Brexit on the horizon, consumer confidence is fragile at best, and retail will continue to struggle, at least in the medium term.

“Whilst no major administrations (such as Bhs) are on the horizon currently, it is hard to see how many of the least vital towns can improve, without considerable investment.

“Local authorities need to conduct detailed audits of the towns they manage to better understand the level of both consumer and retailer demand for space on their high streets.

“The oft-used argument is that we have too much retail space in the UK at present.

“We believe however that it is not about the quantum of space in the UK but the distribution and quality of this space that is more important.

“Retailers opening in the UK for the first time – many of which we represent – want to trade in the best centres only. Gone is the need for hundreds of stores given other distribution channels such as online and wholesale enable retailers to very effectively and profitably service the entire UK.

“Local authorities need to understand the consumers that live in the catchment areas around their towns better, and provide a retail offer that matches the needs of these consumers – even if that means converting some redundant retail space into other uses such as residential or office space.”